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Saints' defense ready to build?

Let me share a little behind-the-scenes glimpse at how the media world works.

When a game is going along, editors start asking what you’re planning to write. When the New Orleans Saints held a 10-point fourth-quarter lead on the Atlanta Falcons, I told my boss I was planning to write about the New Orleans defense. To that point, the Saints had played better defense than I’d seen them play all year.

Of course, as soon as I sent the email, the Falcons rallied for 10 points to send the game to overtime and my editor suddenly got the alert that Atlanta receiver Harry Douglas might be the topic of the column.

You know what happened next. Atlanta coach Mike Smith made a controversial decision to go for it on fourth-and-inches in overtime. It backfired and the Saints won. That instantly topped all the other stories and I wrote about Smith’s decision.

But the New Orleans defense is still worth talking about and that’s exactly what colleague Ashley Fox, who was sitting next to me in the Georgia Dome press box on Sunday, did in this column Monday.

Naturally, a lot of her focus was on the New Orleans side of the big play, how the defense stepped up and stuffed Michael Turner. That was huge, especially for a defense that’s had trouble stopping the run and a team that sometimes gets referred to as a finesse team.

But Fox went beyond that and I’m glad she did because she touched on some excellent points. She correctly points out that what happened in Atlanta could be a building block for this defense. She also says that the Saints’ defense needs to keep improving if New Orleans is going to go deep in the playoffs and I couldn’t agree more.

There were signs Sunday that could happen. Playing without injured middle linebacker Jonathan Vilma, who is the heart and soul of the defense, the Saints played pretty well before Atlanta’s flurry late in regulation. Turner started off well, but the Saints quickly got him in check. They also produced a turnover and prevented Roddy White from being much of a factor, although you could make a case that White’s own play contributed to that.

But the point is New Orleans’ defense showed some signs it is coming together. Sunday really may be something to build on. If the Saints can do that, they will have a shot to go deep into the postseason.